Truancy campaigner appeals for help from bus drivers, conductors
Stabroek News
February 7, 2003

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The coordinator of the campaign against truancy has appealed to mini-bus drivers and conductors to help to ensure that schoolchildren are not dropped off at locations which are considered inappropriate.

Yvonne Arthur, Coordinator of the Education Ministry’s Schools’ Welfare Services was speaking to Stabroek News on Wednes-day on day two of a new exercise in a continuing campaign against truancy.

On Tuesday at about 3:30 pm, officers from the City Police led by an official from the School Welfare Services made rounds on Croal Street, between Louisa Row and Avenue of the Republic, approaching schoolchildren who were standing at the corners in large numbers. Earlier on the same day, the campaign touched South Road.

On Thursday, two students were stopped in the Carmichael Street vicinity, after the patrol suspected them of going some place other than school. It was after 10 am.

The yearly campaign dubbed ‘Operation Care’ began in 2001. She said that for now, the campaign is not aimed at picking up truant children, just warning them. She has indicated, however, that other measures will be considered later. She said that her division is trying to encourage schoolchildren to attend school regularly and punctually and not to loiter on the streets after school hours but to catch the earliest bus home.

Arthur said, too, that the campaign is sending out a call to minibus drivers and conductors for their assistance. She expressed concern that drivers of minibuses drop off schoolchildren at points not considered appropriate.

Members of the public and educators have pointed out frequently that schoolchildren spend a lot of time riding on their favourite mini-buses and listening to loud music.

Commenting on an article in Wednesday’s Guyana Chronicle headlined `Confusion as anti-truancy campaign resumes’, Arthur disputed the contents of it saying that Tuesday’s exercise was uneventful. She said that there had been an unrelated fight with some schoolchildren, and that the Ministry of Education’s vehicle had taken one of the persons in the fight to the police station to make a report. She said that no hostility was shown to the team.

Arthur added that she considered the event successful as on Wednesday less schoolchildren were seen in the areas visited the day before.

Arthur said that most people spoken with are happy that such an exercise has come on stream. They said, however, that they felt that more people needed to be involved. “We plan the exercises according to what we see,” she noted, adding that strategies will be devised based on what is found. She pointed out that before embarking on the campaign, schools, police stations, the Mayor and City Council, and other parties are informed by way of letter of the planned activities. Strategy planning meetings are held and by so doing, dates and places of campaigns are known beforehand, Arthur disclosed.

As the campaign sometimes involves homeless children, homes to care for such children are also contacted.

The Coordinator said that last year’s campaign taught them that if the situation with the schoolchildren is not harnessed quickly, it is likely to get out of hand. She said that most children seem willing to cooperate with the officers in the campaign. She learnt too that many parents of truant children themselves needed help.

Apart from Georgetown, similar campaigns are ongoing countrywide. Arthur said that a total of 18 persons are involved in the exercise. She said that the programme has made a positive impact because many children who seldom or never went to school now do so regularly.

Stabroek News understands that between May and December 2001, there were four major and six minor campaigns in Region Four. In the following year, between January and December, there were two major and eight minor campaigns in the same region.

Arthur has commended the efforts of the Police and the City Council in the anti- truancy campaign.

This phase of the campaign ended on Wednesday and another phase is planned to start later this month, Arthur stated. (Johann Earle)

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